How to Train Your (Subconscious) Dragon


I recently read Bernhard Moestl’s book Jak naplno využít sílu své mysli or Die Kunst, einen Drachen zu reiten in the original German, I believe. He repurposes an allegedly Shaolin argument that helps explain in more concrete ways how the different parts of our mind operate together.

The argument goes as follows: there are three parts of our mind. The first is our conscious mind, which has very little capacity and contains only that which we can consciously hold in our memory. The second is our unconscious mind, which has extremely high capacity and contains all of our past and possible thoughts. The third is our subconscious mind, which serves as the messenger between our conscious and unconscious mind. Whatever our conscious mind requires, our subconscious mind fetches from the unconscious mind, and brings it back to the conscious mind.

Here is the twist that makes the idea come alive: your subconscious is actually a dragon. One big, fat, and lazy dragon. A dragon that has its own motivations: because it is so out of shape, it does everything possible to avoid having to move. In other words, it does not have your best interests at heart. Your conscious mind is a little hut that can hold only a few thoughts at a time and your unconscious mind is an impossibly large warehouse. You shout from your little hut and you expect your dragon to get you what it is that you ask it for. Because it is big, fat, and lazy, that is not at all what happens, though. In fact, it will most likely not bring you anything that you want. More importantly, it will bring it sluggishly and after much effort. I drew the situation below.

The Subconscious Dragon

So how do you turn your dragon into a lean, green, cooperating machine? Based on the quick sketches above, there are a few strategies:

  • Be responsible – take charge of your own thoughts and do not let your dragon use others’ habits to sway yours
  • Be clear – your dragon brings exactly what you ask for, so be very clear about what you ask for because your dragon will initially exploit any loophole
  • Be persistent – your dragon is lazy, so you have to be persistent at first to get the message across
  • Be courageous – if your dragon brings you something that you don’t like, then absolutely have the courage to say “no”
  • Be grateful – your dragon is ultimately in your service, just currently out of shape, so be sure to thank it for everything it does for you

With enough practice, you and your dragon enter into a positive and productive relationship. It is a learning process for both parties.

What makes this idea so valuable in my opinion is that it turns otherwise abstract and impenetrable concepts such as the subconscious mind into something we can more readily empathize with and understand. We all know what that dragon feels like. Which means that we can work with it.

So I wish you the best of luck in training your dragon 🙂

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